§ Lord Althorp
brought up documents indorsed "Papers relating to the state of Ireland." In moving, that they be printed, his Lordship said, that it was due to his right hon. friend, the Secretary for Ireland, (Mr. Littleton), to state, that in the communication he had had with the hon. and learned member for Dublin, (Mr. O'Connell) he had good grounds for saying, that the question regarding the insertion of certain clauses in the Coercion Bill was still under the consideration of the Cabinet. He had also good grounds for expressing his hope, that those clauses would not be inserted in it; but he had no reason whatever to state, and he (Lord Althorp) believed the hon. Member had not stated, that the opinion of Ministers had been made up for 1223 the omission of those clauses; because he had had no communication with his noble friend at the head of the Government, and had no reason to believe, that his noble friend had a doubt as to the necessity of them. With respect to the communication itself, he should not be inclined himself to say, that there was any indiscretion on the part of the Secretary for Ireland in informing the hon. and learned member for Dublin, that the question was not decided, and in cautioning him not to commit himself until he knew what was the intention of Government. As to any further communication between them, upon that he (Lord Althorp) would make no observation. His right hon. friend (Mr. Littleton) had said what he thought necessary on the subject, and he should, therefore, add nothing. It was likewise due to his right hon. friend to mention, that on Saturday he tendered the resignation of his office; but he still held it at the request of Lord Grey. Ministers were, of course, anxious that he should continue in the situation he occupied; they valued the assistance he had given much too highly to be willing to lose it. He moved, that the papers be printed.
§ Mr. Hume
was extremely happy to hear, that his right hon. friend the Secretary for Ireland had been warranted in what he had said. He was not present at the time, for the matter was concluded just after he entered the House; but he was perfectly confident that his right hon. friend would stand clear in the eyes of Parliament and of the country. He was sure that his right hon. friend had intended it as an act of kindness towards the hon. and learned member for Dublin, meaning, if possible, to allay the irritation of his mind at the renewal of the Coercion Bill. He must say, however, that he regretted that any Cabinet should exist apparently so indecisive and so uncertain as to the course it meant to adopt, as to place a member of the Government in the situation in which his right hon. friend had been placed a few nights ago. He had heard with great surprise, that the renewal of the Coercion Bill was the measure of one individual in the Government, who would have resigned his situation in the Councils of his Majesty had the other members of the Cabinet not concurred with him. This might or might not be true; but he had heard, that it was entirely the act of Lord Grey, and he had 1224 alluded to the report in order to give the noble Lord opposite an opportunity of contradicting it if it were unfounded. He referred merely to the current opinion out of doors. He regretted, that Ministers went on from day to day finding time to introduce Coercion Bills, but not to fulfil any of their pledges. He would now repeat the question he had asked five times before, whether the Local Courts Bill was, or was not, to be brought forward in the present Session? That among many other measures really beneficial, was likely to be passed by, for the only measure which Ministers seemed disposed to carry through was the Coercion Bill. As far as he could see, it was the only measure, and it was so contrary to every principle on which the House ought to act, that he believed no man would have consented to support the present Government if he had not felt. confident, that, instead of such a measure, plans calculated to allay irritation and excitement, and to render the presence of so large a number of military in Ireland unnecessary, would have been adopted. Ireland ought not to be treated as a conquered country, but as a part of the empire having equal laws and equal privileges with the other parts of the empire. He hoped that the papers just laid upon the Table would make out sufficient grounds on which to rest the renewal of the Coercion Bill, at a time when it was anticipated by many that the first measure of the kind would also have been the last.
§ Lord Althorp
As to the rumour that the noble Earl at the head of the Government had alone been in favour of the Coercion Bill, such statements could only be matters of mere surmise, inasmuch as the individual opinions of members of the Cabinet were, of course, never divulged: it would, therefore, be quite inconsistent with his duty to give the House any information upon the point. When the subject came under discussion, Government would be bound to give adequate reasons, or the House would not adopt the Bill. He could not admit, that the only measure Ministers had endeavoured to carry, with regard to Ireland, was the Coercion Bill, and hon. Members present must be aware that others had been pressed forward. He was sorry to be obliged to answer, that it would not be possible to bring in the Local Courts Bill this Session.
§ Mr. Robinson
would not make any 1225 commentary on what passed on the former night, but certain it was, that at one time the Government of Ireland was adverse to the renewal of the Coercion Bill. The noble Lord at the head of affairs had, however, stated, that it was brought in with the perfect concurrence of the noble Marquess; and he called upon Government, therefore, to state what had induced Lord Wellesley to change his opinion. Much stress had been laid by Ministers last year upon the opinion of Lord Anglesey, and he wished to know why a similar reliance was not to be placed on the opinion of Lord Wellesley? He wished to know whether it was true, that no longer ago than June last Lord Wellesley was adverse to the renewal of the Coercion Bill, though he had seen reason since to change his opinion?
§ Lord Althorp
replied, that it was certainly true, that discussion on the subject had taken place with the Irish Government; but he was now perfectly prepared to state, that the Coercion Bill was brought in with the entire concurrence of Lord Wellesley.
One thing was manifest—that the documents upon the Table ought not to be treated lightly, but deliberately. If the liberties of the Irish people were of any value to the House or to any portion of it, it would destroy the possibility of making a flippant observation upon a partial and particular view, without regarding the bearings of the whole case. He would not enter into bygone topics; his statement a few days ago did not, in fact, differ from that of the right hon. Gentleman, and they were both before the public. How far the statements made to him were correct, was now beyond controversy; and he would not allude to them further than to say, that they demonstrated that, up to a certain day, the Irish Government was decidedly hostile to certain clauses of the Bill, and that some members of the Cabinet were opposed to their renewal. The documents were now upon the Table: whether they were the same as had been presented to the other House, he did not know; but if they were the same, they would establish that, on the 18th of April, Lord Wellesley called for the Bill—anxiously solicited for it—although on the 20th of June, he objected to its renewal. He was now again it favour of it; and it was material to know what had induced him so rapidly to Change 1226 his opinion. On the 18th of April, he was for the Bill; on the 20th of June he was against it; and on the 5th or 7th of July he was once more in favour of it. Ought not this vacillation to be explained? With what indignation must the people of Ireland hear the echo of the cheers that resounded, when it was asserted, that Ministers had done nothing for Ireland but coerce her! Were the liberties of that country of so little value? Were the Irish such degraded slaves—were they so fallen below compassion, that though England and Scotland had their constitutional rights, Ireland was to have none? She was to have no liberty; she was only to have the Coercion Bill—the detested Coercion Bill! Were not the people of Ireland entitled to have the question considered, before the Coercion Bill was renewed? He turned to every part of the House, and appealed against this species of Administration. Was Ireland to be the laughing-stock of all Europe, and were the natives of that country to be dealt with as Ministers would not deal with the negro-slaves of the West Indies? They had not sent for one man to tell him one thing, and for another man to tell him another. He would not say that; but he would say, that they thought the liberties of Ireland of so little value, that they would give no explanation to justify their measures. In order to put the matter to the test, he meant to conclude with a Motion, that the papers just laid upon the Table he referred to a Select Committee. Would the House consent to adopt the Coercion Bill without, previous inquiry? Were Ministers to have it merely for asking? One of the principal newspaper supporters of Ministers —who supported them because they were well paid for it—on the very day of the last discussion on this measure, had taunted the people of France that they had relinquished the power of meeting, without even the show of resistance. Were not the people of Ireland to be permitted to establish that there was no ground for the renewal? He would endeavour to obtain some satisfactory evidence, if it could be procured, and not allow the House to act upon the information and letters of some paltry thief-takers and police officers. If he could not procure this, he would show the species of anti-Irish majority that existed in this House, which supported the Minister in doing 1227 nothing for Ireland. What had he done for Ireland in the present Session? What had he attempted? The Secretary for Ireland, on a former night, had talked of four measures; but as to the Reform Bill, Ireland had been insulted by the difference made in favour of England and Scotland, and to her detriment. The striking off of ten Bishops was nothing, and because it was nothing, he had voted against it. In the Vestry-cess, there was an abatement of 35,000l. a-year—a mighty boon! but all that could be granted to Ireland. What had been done about tithes? The Bill was brought in in February, altered in March, and in June it was so utter a nondescript, that the Secretary at War was obliged to receive two or three promptings before he could speak of it. The much boasted Commission had not yet gone to the spot where its inquiries were to begin; but eight or ten Commissioners had been appointed, and that was all, and seemed to be thought enough. Yet the noble Lord talked of what had been done for Ireland this year. It was turning Ireland into contempt—it was laughing Ireland to scorn, when the noble Lord thus ventured to indulge himself. Ministers would think of nothing but Coercion—nothing but Coercion and delusion for Ireland. The people of Ireland could not fail to know it: they saw people keep their places, whether they were against or in favour of Coercion; and, in fact, that it was treated by Ministers as a matter of small moment. He hoped, however, that the House would not so treat it, and that it would not hesitate in acceding to his Motion for a Committee. He wanted no delay; he was ready to proceed instantly—to work day and night, but it was too late for Ministers to complain of delay when they had postponed the Bill till July. If the House had one particle of feeling for Ireland—one particle of that feeling so much vaunted, and which had been resounded from one end of the country to the other, if it had the slightest disposition to do justice to Ireland, Whig, Tory, Conservative, and Radical would all join in supporting the Motion for Inquiry. He called upon them all to demand evidence before they convicted his country. The least they could do would be to give Ireland a trial before they passed sentence upon her by passing the Coercion Bill. 1228 It was not enough for Ministers to throw their papers upon the Table. How, or when, or by whom they were concocted, he knew not; but he did know that they had changed their intentions, and that those who were once and recently opposed to it, were now in favour of the Bill. What new and strange events had occurred to produce this calamitous change? This of itself was worth inquiry, and he moved therefore "that the documents just presented be referred to a Select Committee, and that they report their opinion thereupon to the House."
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that the remark of the hon. member for Middlesex, that Ministers had done nothing, was not meant by him to apply particularly to Ireland. He (Lord Althorp) had not said, and had not intended to say, that any measures had been applied specifically to Ireland. With regard to the Motion, it was not his design to concede what was required since the papers upon the Table were such as Government thought would justify the course they proposed to pursue. lf, on consideration, it should appear to the House, that the documents did not warrant the renewal of the Coercion Bill, it would be rejected. Upon that test, Ministers were disposed to rest the measure, and, in justification of the renewal of the Coercion Bill, they laid the papers before the House. As to what might have occurred since the 18th of April, the proper time for stating the grounds of any change of opinion would be when the measure came regularly before the House: it would then be shown, that Ministers had not acted in the inconsistent manner which had been supposed. They had most cautiously and anxiously looked at the whole subject; they had duly considered every doubt suggested as to the extent of the measure, in order to ascertain if that extent were necessary; and he was sure, that the country would not blame them for hesitating as long as there was reason for hesitation.
§ Mr. Henry Grattan
said, that whatever uncertainty might have prevailed amongst the Ministers, certain it was, that the measure contemplated to be again renewed was most unconstitutional in its character and object; and he would venture to say, that in the annals of Parliamentary history, there was not an instance in which the liberties of a whole country were 1229 treated in so cavalier a mode as it was proposed to deal with the subject on the present occasion. Before the liberties and rights of the people of Ireland were again to he trampled upon, it would be but common justice that the documents brought up by the noble Lord, and on which he would seek to justify the course of policy the Government were pursuing, should be referred to a Select or even a Secret Committee. Why should the noble Lord object to the Motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin; or why should he refuse to state his reasons for denying this Committee? Would the noble Lord elsewhere, or the noble Lord opposite, attempt to justify thus the taking away the liberties of a people without their being heard—without trial and without inquiry? What were the facts which furnished the only argument in favour of the Bill of last year? Why, the then existing state of agitation in that country; but the argument on that ground must now entirely fall. No plan could have been adopted by the Government better calculated to increase those dissensions which so long disturbed the peace and tranquillity of Ireland, than their present attempt to truckle to both parties. He knew, that in Ireland there were some men who now speculated upon the Prospects of civil commotion; but the people of Ireland would not be entrapped into any seditious proceeding, though he could tell the noble Lord what every man of spirit in that country would do—namely, that which he himself would do in the language of Lord Anglesey, he would "wait awhile." He concurred in the sentiment expressed by the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth on a former occasion, that it would be much better for the two countries to be separated if they could not be kept united in the same bonds of liberty. He would add, that if the bonds of liberty were not to unite both nations, he, for one, should cry out, not for repeal, but for separation. The noble Lord opposite could not think, that the speeches emanating, from the Russell family could be thrown away upon a nation which had given birth to men whose blood was as pure as that of those whose ancestors had signed the Magna Charta, and who would deprecate and condemn that Act which would deprive a nation of its liberties at the will of one executive officer of the Government. Such, however, was the pre- 1230 sent instance of legislation, and than this there never was a more monstrous system of tyranny attempted to be practised in any country. But the people of Ireland, and the Representatives of that people, were told to be satisfied. He for one was not satisfied, and he should be a tyrant and a coward himself if he participated in the satisfaction to which he, in common with the Irish people, had been invited. The course proposed by the Government was most inconsistent, for it was clear, that the noble Lord who presided over Irish affairs had respectively been for, against, and now again was in favour of the re-enactment of the measure of last year, and it was equally clear, that the Cabinet had been, and was divided in its views. He then would ask, why the Legislature was not furnished with, or ought to be allowed the opportunity of obtaining for itself such information as would justify, or otherwise, the re-adoption of the measure upon which such varieties of opinion, and so many difficulties, had manifestly arisen. Upon the information of the noble Lord, the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland, he entertained great doubts. The information had been obtained from police officers, for the noble Lord had never been further than the county of Wicklow since his appointment. The noble Lord knew personally nothing of the state of the country, and with respect to the sources from which the noble Lord's information was derived, he could state, that it had been his lot to examine many of the police officers in the county of Monaghan, and he had no reluctance in stating that he would not believe them upon their oaths. That they were undeserving of credit he should be able to prove when the debate upon the Bill came regularly before the House. He could also prove, that they had not possessed the courage to enforce the orders which were contained in the letters transmitted to them by the right hon. Gentleman (the late Secretary for the Colonies), at the time that right hon. Gentleman had filled the office of Secretary for Ireland. Was it to be supposed, that the Representatives of the Irish people could look patiently on and see measures involving the liberties of their country justified upon information acquired from such a source? Would it not be better to send the Irish Members back to tell their constituents that they had been sent to London to witness a complete farce in legislation? That would 1231 be to speak the truth. What had been as yet done for Ireland? Look at the number of petitions with reference to tithes which, up to the 2nd of May, had been presented to the House; and what had been the answer? The appointment of a Commission constituted of individuals who knew nothing of Ireland —Chancery Barristers who walked about Westminster-hall. All the information and the whole of the evidence which could be acquired was already upon the Table of the House, and the issuing of the Commission was designed merely to blind the people, and to shelter the Government—a Government which had not the courage to proceed with the 147th clause of the Church Temporalities' Bill of last year; but upon which it would now seem the Cabinet was divided. This it was, that was calculated to bring Ireland, not to civil convulsion—no, she was "waiting awhile"—but to make the people of that country deride the councils of the English Government, and to teach her that a united Legislature was incompatible with the freedom of Ireland. He was for connexion, but not for such a connexion as was now held, for it was that of slavery. There was a species of insanity in thus legislating for Ireland, leading to a political plunder of Ireland's liberties, and a provocative to rebellion. He called upon hon. Members to refer to the Irish Statute-book framed by English legislation, and a bloody book it would be found. The laws therein contained, were ample, if bloody and coercive laws could accomplish such an object, for the punishment of any violence or outrage that might from time to time ensue; and what more could be either wanted or desired, unless it was contemplated to take away the liberties of Ireland by force? It was true, that the Government had 23,000 of military, backed by 6,000 police, in Ireland; and to their reliance on the bayonets of the soldiery might be attributed their recurrence to the principles which had cashiered the right hon. Gentleman, the late Secretary for the Colonies. If they renewed the provisions of the Coercion Bill, they would only place another blot on the escutcheon of England. But had not the Government some secret motive in passing this Bill? He firmly believed that they had, and that their object was to render it ancillary to the collection of tithes. So strong was his aversion to the course pursued by his Majesty's Ministers, that he should not 1232 only persist in moving a call of the House whenever this measure was brought forward, but would take every other means in his power to oppose a proposition which, so help him God, he considered injurious to the connection between the two countries.
§ Mr. Feargus O'Connor
said, that some portion of the House had indulged in laughter at the excitement of his hon. friend the member for Meath; but he believed with him, that if a similar course were attempted with respect to England that was now enforced towards Ireland, the House would present a scene of far greater excitement. When he was fool enough to assist the Government through thick and thin with their Reform Bill, though he was warned at the time, that if that measure was not accompanied by some alterations in the Act of Union, the very first thing the Reformed Parliament would do, would be to pass some Gagging Bill for Ireland, what was the result?— the Coercion Bill. Let them not—let the Government not dare to talk to him about their remedial measures, their conciliatory measures, their tithe-extinction measures. Where were they all? They were useless, they were worse than useless—they were base delusions, and they operated as such upon the people of Ireland; and when they produced their natural effect, that of enraging that already-oppressed people, they must appease them, forsooth, with a Coercion Bill. The whole people of Ireland cried out, "Give us food!" and Ministers gave them the Coercion Bill—a Bill which was a violation of every principle of the Constitution, which was agreed to as a momentary violation, which was to be withdrawn, and which, nevertheless, the Government were now, it appeared, resolved to carry in all its original rigour. Let them try to do so. Let them make their attempt, and he, on his part, would raise such a cry in Ireland as would turn them out of their seats. Let him remind his countrymen of the words of the inspired bard:—Then onward the green banner rearing,Let's flesh ev'ry sword to the hilt;On our side is virtue and Erin,On their's is the Saxon and guilt!Let them reflect upon this warning. Let the Government reflect upon it; and let them be cautious not to pass beyond those boundaries which human nature had fixed for the endurance of wrong.
§ Mr. Ellice
admitted, that there was some justification for the warmth which had been manifested in the course of the present discussion on the part of the Irish Members, but he did not mean to imitate it. He, however, could not understand what object could be gained or attained by referring the papers which had been laid on the Table by his noble friend to a Select Committee, which could not be obtained by the printing of those documents as proposed by his noble friend. The case of the Government depended upon the information contained in those papers, which, when printed, might be considered by every hon. Member before the measure came on for discussion. If the information therein contained should not then be found sufficient to justify the re-enactment of the Bill now before the other House of Parliament, then would be the proper time for the House to express an opinion upon it. By such a course, he could not but think that the House would act better for the country to which the Act was intended to be applied, than if it were now to send the documents to a Committee up-stairs, who could report their opinion only upon the matter contained in the papers themselves. All that the Government could desire was, that the whole matter should be taken into the full, fair, and calm consideration of the House—that the papers should be duly weighed and considered by every hon. Member, and that then would be the proper time for the House to declare, whether or not the measure was justified. He should avoid entering into any justification of the conduct of the Government, or to allude to the speeches which had been made on the other side of the House, as it would only add to the irritation which already prevailed. He, however, must entreat the House to accede to the Motion of his noble friend (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), and to allow the papers to be printed.
§ Mr. Hume
thought, that the right hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House, had not heard the declaration of the hon. member for Meath (Mr. Henry Grattan), that he was prepared to bring evidence of the first character to disprove the Reports which had issued from Inspectors and other officers of the police. It would be impossible for the hon. Member to do that, if the papers containing those Reports were merely printed and laid upon the Table of the 1234 House. There was a want of information in the present instance, and he put it to his right hon. friend (Mr. Ellice), whether he had ever known any Tory Administration to which he had ever been opposed, come down with a measure calculated as the Bill was, to suspend the liberties of the subjects of a portion of the realm, without affording a green-bag full of information? He (Mr. Hume) complained, that no green-bag had been produced in the present case. If such a measure were necessary, it was but reasonable that the information on which it was founded should have been submitted to the Legislature long before the 7th of July—a most advanced period of the present Session. He should be glad to know, what there was in the present question that a different course than ordinary should be pursued. It was not unreasonable that the Irish Members should desire to know on what grounds the measures affecting the dearest interests of their country were to be supported, and especially when the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, had admitted, that those grounds were in some instances very slight. The course pursued in this instance was much worse even than any course the Tories ever pursued; the Tories had never started such a measure, without at least some species of inquiry, although such inquiry might have been a mere mockery. In this case, however, it was especially the duty of the Government to go into an investigation, in order at least to show, that they were not despots. It was also called for, inasmuch as 1,000,000l. sterling was necessary to maintain the force which was required to keep Ireland tranquil, merely because justice was not done to that country by the British Legislature. The Coercion Bill had been sought last year in order to afford time for the Government to design measures for the removal of grievances; but the failure of that measure had been foretold by every hon. Member who had opened his mouth against it, until the Government should take off the existing pressures upon Ireland. If ever the Government had been desirous to show, that they took an interest in the welfare of the country, now was the time; and they could not better evince that feeling than by consenting to send the representations contained in the documents laid on the Table to a Committee upstairs, and thereby allow hon. Members 1235 an opportunity of disproving the allegations on which the Bill was founded. He trusted his Majesty's Government would not refuse to accede to this initiatory step towards the settlement of peace and tranquillity in Ireland. To accomplish this desirable end only required the nod of assent by the Minister in that House, and without it, he must admit, it was in the power of hon. Members to crush Ireland by those very majorities with which the Ministers was supported. He should certainly support the Motion of his hon. and learned friend, the member for Dublin.
§ Mr. O'Reilly
said, that after the conduct which the noble Lord at the head of the Irish Government had pursued in respect to this Bill, he could not place much confidence in the opinion that noble Lord now entertained. As to the authenticity of the Reports of the police of Ireland, he could only say, that in 1821 and 1822 it had been declined to be acted upon by the right hon. Gentleman now presiding over the India Board, when the renewal of the Insurrection Act had been required from him at the time he filled the office of Secretary for Ireland. He (Mr. O'Reilly) had submitted to the right hon. Gentleman, now the member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Goulburn) documents which proved the organization of a complete scheme for the disturbance of the county of Cavan, in order to induce the Government to renew the Insurrection Act, and to secure the calling out of the Yeomanry to be placed upon full-pay. Those documents were now in the Castle of Dublin, and showed the spirit in which information was sent to those charged with the Government of Ireland. He had the letter of the right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Control, refusing to act upon the information in this respect, though without any new evidence to inform his mind, the then Lord Lieutenant (the Marquess Wellesley) called for the renewal of the Insurrection Act—a measure which had thus been declined by the then Secretary for Ireland and his predecessor in that office. It was, however, at length given up, as he trusted the Coercion Bill would, after the experience which the last two years had afforded. He concurred with the hon. and learned member for Dublin in desiring, that the documents upon which the renewal of the Coercion Bill was to be 1236 justified, should be referred to a Committee, because it would afford him (Mr. O'Reilly) an opportunity of examining both the right hon. Gentlemen to whom he alluded—of calling for those documents to which he referred; and also of examining the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth, who had permitted the Insurrection Act to die. It was true, that the state of agitation had been the only argument in favour of the Bill, but it was impossible for the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for Ireland, or any other individual, to afford one tittle of evidence to show, that agitation had been kept up in Ireland to such an extent as to justify the re-enactment of such a Bill. He admitted that crimes were perpetrated in Ireland, but they originated in very different causes from political agitation. He had himself never joined in agitation since the suppression of the old Catholic Association. Yes, he had agitated the Tithe Question, as he was reminded by the hon. and learned member for Dublin, but he had not taken a part in the Repeal agitation. He, however, had never understood the extinction of tithes to mean the transfer of tithes into the pockets of the landlords; and though he might have agitated the Tithe Question, he had never written letters, and allowed others to suffer for publishing them. He had ever been ready to take his share of the consequences of his own acts, and had been willing to endure his portion of blame. He should certainly vote for the Motion of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, because that, in addition to what he had already stated, would afford him the opportunity of examining the present Attorney-General for Ireland with reference to some information furnished to that functionary by Mr. Warburton, an Officer of Police in Ireland. The fact was, that when the police did their duty, they did not get credit for it, because they sometimes overstepped the boundaries which the law prescribed for their regulation. He hoped to see the time when Ireland would not be governed by a Lord Lieutenant who was unable to supply Parliament with the information it required, but governed by a Secretary, who, standing on the floor of that House, could lay before its Members such statements as were found necessary.
§ Mr. Charles Grant
said, that as the hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded to him personally, he would trouble the 1237 House with a few words. The hon. Gentleman only did him justice in supposing, that in giving his voice in favour of a renewal of the Coercion Bill, he must be influenced by a strong and paramount conviction of its necessity. The hon. Member had been somewhat incorrect in his dates in what he had said as to his conduct in Parliament. It was in 1819, and the commencement of 1820, that disturbances broke out in Galway, and during that winter strong efforts were made to induce him to propose the renewal of the Insurrection Act, which he resisted. In 1820, the Question came before the House, and the House gave its opinion, and the Question was set at rest. The hon. Member appeared to have forgotten that he had left Ireland in 1821, when the Question about the renewal of the Insurrection Act again came forward. It was discussed in March and April, having been brought forward late in February, when he was no longer a member of the Government. Acting, then, in his individual capacity, when he could not be supposed to be in any degree influenced by the Government, what was its course? Upon consideration of the papers laid before Parliament, he did feel himself called upon to vote for the measure notwithstanding his previous impressions. He acceded to the revival of the Insurrection Act, because he was convinced, that great as were the evils which it inflicted, those which it prevented would be still greater if left unchecked. He did, therefore, concur in the measure, and not by a silent vote. His was the same course which he asked the House to take now. Here were the papers before them, and if, upon examining them, the case should not, in their opinion, bear out the renewal of the Bill, let them not pass it. But he asked them also not to adopt a course which would prevent the papers from being printed upon which the House must ultimately come to a decision before they had examined the papers placed before them.
§ Sir Robert Peel
found himself called upon very unexpectedly to give a vote upon a very important question. He had not the least expectation that the papers were to be presented to-day, and, therefore, the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman which stood upon the presentation of the papers, had altogether taken him by surprise. Unprepared, however, as he was, he was unwilling to evade the 1238 difficulty; he should vote against the appointment of a Committee, and state his reasons for doing so. He voted for the measure last year from a deep general conviction that some such measure was necessary, and he had no reason to believe that such a change had taken place in the state of Ireland as to warrant the removal of the measure. If he voted for referring the subject to a Select Committee on the 7th of July, to make the inquiry effectual, they must summon persons from the distant counties of Ireland. But to commence such an inquiry on the 7th of July, would be tantamount to practically rejecting the Bill. He believed, however, that the Bill, or some Bill of the kind, was necessary. While, therefore, he could not, on the one hand, consent to the adoption of such a Bill without having an opportunity of reading the papers upon which the provisions were founded; yet he confessed, that on the other hand, he could not consent to a proposition which would be tantamount to the rejection of a legislative enactment which, upon the whole, he believed to be necessary for ensuring the peace in Ireland. It was the duty of his Majesty's Government, at a much earlier period this Session, to have declared their intention with respect to the re-enacting this Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman said, that it was not his fault that this Motion was made on the 7th of July. It might be so; but as its adoption would be to postpone the measure, he could not assent to it. He must also say, that the explanations required from his Majesty's Government were those which a Select Committee could not give. The Government ought not to leave the House in doubt as to what were the opinions of the executive government in Ireland, who would be responsible for the execution of the law. What he saw in the papers before him left him no reason to doubt that it had been the opinion of the Marquess Wellesley at no distant period, that the renewal of the Coercion Act in its integrity was necessary to the security of life and ensuring the supremacy of the law. On the 15th of April, 1834, he found in the copies of the despatches printed on their Table the following words:—'These disturbances have been in every instance excited and inflamed by the agitation of the combined projects for the abolition of tithes, and the destruction of the Union with Great Britain. I cannot employ 1239 words of sufficient strength to express my solicitude that his Majesty's Government should fix the deepest attention on the intimate connection marked by the strongest characters, in all these transactions between the system of agitation and its inevitable consequence, the system of combination, leading to violence and outrage; they are, inseparably, cause and effect. Nor can I (after the most attentive consideration of the dreadful scenes passing under my view), by any effort of my understanding, separate one from the other in that unbroken chain of indissoluble connection.' If he searched through the English language—and the Marquess Wellesley had once been a great master of that language—it would be impossible to find stronger words than those in which that noble Lord had expressed his opinion, that predial violence was inseparably connected with political agitation. He would look at another of the documents, being the answer to the two questions put to the inspectors of police, as to whether the state of their districts demanded the renewal of the Act, and if any amendment would be required on its renewal. The answer of the inspectors was unanimous as to the necessity of the renewal; and one of them (Mr. Warburton) stated, that no amendment at all was necessary. In this, he said, all the inspectors were unanimous, and Lord Wellesley, on the 18th of April, in his despatch to the Government, added these words:—My Lord—I have the honour to enclose, for the consideration of his Majesty's Government, the replies of the provincial inspectors to a question which I proposed to them respecting the renewal of the Act for the more effectual Suppression of Local Disturbances in Ireland, which, if not renewed, will expire in the month of August, 1834.Your Lordship will observe that their opinion is unanimously and powerfully given in favour of the renewal of that Act.It is superfluous for me to add my entire approbation of the opinions which they have expressed, and my most anxious desire that the Act may be renewed.He knew something of Lord Wellesley: he had had the honour and satisfaction of serving under him in an official situation, where he stood upon close and intimate connection with him, when Lord Wellesley was Lord-lieutenant, and he was Chief Secretary for Ireland; and no man could have had better means of 1240 judging whether his opinion on such a subject was likely to be lightly formed and lightly changed. Being aware that Lord Wellesley was very careful in forming, and firm in retaining, his opinion, he must say, that he never heard anything with greater surprise than the statement which had been made as to the change of the noble Lord's views, in the month of June. That he who wrote those letters of the 15th and 18th of April, could on the 18th of June have written another, recommending a totally different course upon the same question, was utterly beyond his power of comprehension. For Lord Wellesley to take such a course, when one recalled to mind the energy and firmness of his policy in India! He should deeply regret indeed, that the closing scenes of the career of such a statesman should be marked by such vacillation and indecision. For the honour of Lord Wellesley explanation was due. As that noble Lord was intrusted with the responsible government of Ireland and the guardianship of her peace, they had a right to know why it was that they found him involved in these contradictions, which he (Sir Robert Peel) was unwilling to believe were his own. There were reasons, also, of a higher consideration, which demanded that such imputations upon a public functionary should be removed or explained. If, on the 18th of June, Lord Wellesley had come to the opinion that it was possible to separate political agitation from predial violence, after having declared in language so strong on the 18th of April, that they were inseparably connected, Parliament ought to know the grounds upon which that change of opinion had been come to. For although Lord Wellesley might be prepared to take the responsibility of governing Ireland without the Coercion Act, the House should, at least, know the grounds upon which he had come to his Resolution, before they reposed confidence in a judgment which, upon the face of such transactions, appeared to be so unstable. He would say to the Government at home, that they took upon themselves a heavy responsibility for their part in the proceeding. What! when they found the Lord-lieutenant urging the renewal of the Act in the latter end of April, not in common terms, but searching the language to find terms to express his strong desire for the adoption of that measure—what prevented the Ministers from 1241 giving notice of their intention to Parliament until the 2nd of July? What had passed between them and the Irish Government during that interval? Had not the House a right to some explanations upon this head? With such an opinion entertained by the head of the Irish Government, such a course as that which had been pursued towards him must naturally have the effect of paralysing all government in that country, and divesting it of the energy indispensably required by the circumstances of the times. He felt these considerations powerfully urging him to call for investigation, if the necessary information should be withheld from the House; but he differed from the hon. and learned Member as to the propriety of appointing a Select Committee; and no temporary advantage should induce him to support a proposition that in his deliberate judgment could lead to no good result. At the same time he admitted the justice of the hon. and learned Gentleman's complaints of the treatment he had personally received, and not one word should the hon. and learned Gentleman hear from him in abatement of the just indignation which he had expressed. What was the situation in which the hon. and learned Gentleman stood towards the Government? On the first day of the Session the Government put words into the King's mouth, which he would take the liberty to read to the House. The King was made to say:—'To the practices which have been used to produce disaffection to the State, and mutual distrust and animosity between the people of the two countries, is chiefly to be attributed the spirit of in- subordination, which, though for the present in a great degree controlled by the power of the law, has been but too perceptible in many instances. To none more than to the deluded instruments of the agitation thus perniciously excited, is the continuance of such a spirit productive of the most ruinous consequences; and the united and vigorous exertions of the loyal and well-affected, in aid of the Government, are imperiously required to put an end to a system of excitement and violence, which, while it continues, is destructive of the peace of society, and, if successful, must inevitably prove fatal to the power and safety of the United Kingdom.' These were the words of his Majesty's Ministers. They advised the King to speak to them; and who could 1242 doubt, that they were pointed at the hon. and learned Member? He thought it at the time derogatory to the dignity of the Crown, and calculated unduly to raise that individual into importance. Were the Ministers who put that speech into the mouth of the King, who said, that "To the practices which have been used to produce disaffection to the State, and mutual distrust and animosity between the people of the two countries, is chiefly to be attributed the spirit of insubordination,"—were these Ministers the same who now saw no connection between political agitation, and the "spirit of insubordination?" If so, what must be the feelings of those loyal and well-affected persons in Ireland whose united and vigorous exertions the Government had imperiously invoked on the first day of the Session, when they found on the 20th of June the same hon. and learned Gentleman who had been then pointed out to them as an object of royal disapprobation selected to receive the confidential communications of the same Government! And what must be the feelings of the hon. and learned Gentleman himself, when he found that the communication made to him to conciliate his support had only the effect of misleading him! When it was found that the Lord-lieutenant on the one side, and the loyal and well-affected people on the other side all concurred with the opinion not long ago expressed by the Ministers, that this measure was necessary; and when it was afterwards found that this united opinion was riot to be acted upon, he would put it to any Gentleman conversant with the affairs of Ireland or of any other country to say, whether any Government could expect to secure to itself the co-operation of the loyal and well-affected, or the respect and confidence of any portion of the population in that part of the empire?
§ Mr. Littleton
having found himself, upon a former occasion, under the necessity of making an unqualified admission of the indiscretion he had committed, he felt himself relieved from the duty of replying to that portion of the right hon. Baronet's speech which related to the communication he had made to the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite. Having done that, he was called upon to say no more upon the subject, and he should say no more upon it either then, or at any other time. The right hon. Baronet had 1243 inveighed in strong terms against the injustice and impropriety of the Government having delayed the proposal of the measure so long. With all respect he differed from the right hon. Baronet. He thought it was the duty of the Government, acting under a natural and constitutional reluctance to the bringing forward any such measure, to obtain the longest possible retrospect of the operation of the Act before they decided on its renewal. This was a principle which, he contended, entitled them rather to the approbation of the House than to its censure. With respect to the necessity of the Marquess Wellesley explaining his sentiments, he could only say, that he sent him (Mr. Littleton) the dispatches laid upon the Table of the House, and that he did about the middle of last month, after two months had elapsed from the time when those dispatches were written, and after there had been a considerable abatement of the meetings in Ireland, submit to the noble Marquess, as a confidential friend, and as the Secretary for Ireland, to consider how far that portion of the Bill which was directed against public meetings would be necessary. A correspondence had ensued, and there was much discussion between the Members of the Government here and the noble Marquess, and the result was, that it was agreed upon, that the renewal of this measure, as proposed in the other House, was desirable.
§ Mr. Sheil
said, that the date of the 18th of April was important to be borne in mind as the period at which the Lord-lieutenant had recommended the renewal of the Coercion Bill. The question was, did the Lord-lieutenant change his mind before the Government resolved on renewing the Bill? They relied on the opinion of the Lord-lieutenant in favour of coercion. Did they refuse to act upon his opinion when it was against its continuance? It was evident there was something kept back. There were other documents which must be produced before the House could proceed with the measure. They had some data, but they wanted other data before they could possibly judge of the necessity for renewing the Act. What was the admission made by the right hon. Gentleman? Why, that the Lord-lieutenant had undergone a complete change of opinion in a very short time. Was that true, or was it not true? 1244 If not, then the right hon. Gentleman had mistaken—for he could never attribute any intentional misrepresentation of anything—he had mistaken the opinions of the noble Marquess. All the House had to form its opinion by was the letter of the 18th of April, and that recommended the renewal of the Bill with the Court-martial clause. But the Ministers had brought in a Bill and left that out. They were therefore, in any case, not acting upon the advice and opinion of the noble Marquess. The right hon. Baronet objected to the Motion because it was too late to appoint a Select Committee. What! was any time too late to have a full investigation as to the necessity of such an Act before it was passed? The right hon. Baronet was, of course, free to blame what he conceived would be a defeat of a measure which he conceived necessary; but would he tell them that upon such despatches as had been produced, the House would be justified in renewing the Coercion Act? If so, why did not the Government make up their minds to do it on the 18th of April? Were they not asked again and again in the other House whether it was their intention to renew it or not, and did not the hon. and learned member for the University of Dublin repeat the question in that House until the noble Lord opposite thought it had been pushed to an unwarrantable length? He could scarcely believe, that the members of the present Government had consented to the Bill. He saw before him the right hon. and learned member for Edinburgh, whose opinion the House had heard upon this Bill long before he was in office. He opposed such a Bill in 1822, and again in 1833. He confessed he was very solicitous of knowing on what ground it was, that that right hon. Gentleman would justify his support of it now; and that support given without inquiry. It was said, the object of the Bill was to put down agitation. Why, there was none. No meetings had taken place, and scarcely any disturbance. What were the grounds then? None, as would be shown if they went into evidence before a Committee. It was said, they would have no more information before the Committee than in the House. He denied it. They might demand more, and have all the correspondence placed before them.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, that the hon. and learned Member seemed to insist, and not 1245 unnaturally, he admitted, on the fact of the letter of the Marquess Wellesley of the 18th of April making no exception to the Court-martial clause in the renewal. That arose purely from the Marquess Wellesley never having considered that provision as any part of the measure. It had never been acted upon, and the noble Lord looked upon it as a dead letter.
Good God! was it referred to the opinion of a man to decide whether they should have this Act renewed who had never thought the Court-martial clause worth his attention at all? Were they then to suffer such an infringement of their liberties because this nobleman could not suffer the idea to disturb his semi-regal thoughts? The Government must produce the whole evidence upon this matter, and let the House see how it stood. There was the letter of the 18th of April before them; they wanted the next of the 20th of June, and Ministers were afraid to produce it. Would that House submit to such treatment? They had not time enough to consider the Bill, but they had their majority ready to carry it through—a majority of reformed Members—not the virtual, but the actual Representatives of the people. He trusted the House would not concede what was recommended by the right hon. Baronet, the member for Tamworth. What would they gain by it? Nothing. On the contrary, they would save time by appointing a Committee to make the necessary investigation. Did the right hon. Gentleman think, that they who opposed the Bill would not discuss it word for word, and sentence by sentence. Should he not have to deal with every line of the Bill, and to submit a distinct Motion upon the tergiversations and the practices which had been resorted to to carry it? Did they think, that he should allow any means of opposition to escape, or that any other of those who represented the feeling of the people of his country would? No man who would could ever again deserve the confidence of the people of Ireland, and be would never again recommend them to it. Oh! were these the measures they were to receive at the hands of men who professed so much—who called themselves the descendants of the old Whigs, the friends of liberty, the defenders of freedom, the enemies of tyranny—who talked of having civil freedom engraved on their standard and equal rights for their prin- 1246 ciples? Yes, they had it for themselves; but they had it not for Ireland. What became now of the six hours' speech? If it had been six-and-thirty hours he would meet it now with the one fact of this Bill, and there was its answer. Oh! he should be the basest of slaves if ever he submitted to that Union. This measure no longer left a question of the Repeal of the Union. To obtain a separation of the two countries was now the duty of every Irishman, and he would employ all the constitutional means at his command to have it repealed. Their speeches would no longer prevail. He would tell them, that they might make up their fabricated Returns, they might marshal their columns of false figures—he would put the one fact of the renewal of this Bill without inquiry before the nation, and what would all their statements be worth? What country had ever cursed another as England had cursed Ireland? What country ever inflicted upon another so many evils? For the last seven hundred years she had pursued one course of robbery, burning, murder, and blood. Talk of the cruelties of Russia towards Poland! They were nothing compared to the horrors which England had perpetrated upon his country. Why did he speak this now? Because they were still going on in the same career. Yes, their hands were still stained with blood; but there was not the boldness of spoliation in their acts; they only sought now to perpetuate the degradation of his country. Much good might it do them with it. Did they think it would last? He would tell them, that it would not. If England were to go to war, but she dared not go to war, for Ireland would then be her bitterest foe, and join her arms to those of the enemy. And could any one say to Ireland, that she ought not to be the foe of England, when she was goaded to it by such treatment as she had all along received at the hands of this country? On the 20th of June she was told that she was not to be governed by coercion, and now on the 7th of July, because the Premier chose it, and the House of Commons were afraid to resist him—because they were afraid to break up the Parliament, and ashamed to go back to their constituents, though they were not ashamed to be bandied as he then bandied them, and would continue to bandy them—now, forsooth, coercion was to be enforced in all its rigorous 1247 provisions! All he wanted of the Government now was, to allow an examination to be had into their conduct in this strange affair. If they were right in what they had done, they would surely have nothing to fear from inquiry. But the fact unfortunately was, that the Government had fallen into the hands of a military police establishment, who lived on disorder and confusion, and got their monthly pay during the continuance of disturbances. These were the witnesses upon whose authority the Government now proposed to act, and those witnesses were false. The assertion of the Lord-lieutenant also, that predial disturbances were fomented by political agitation, was false. It really was too bad to have the destinies of a great people depend upon the misrepresentations of such a will-o'-the-wisp, such a creature whom he would not degrade himself by describing in his full colours. The Government appreciated his worth pretty well; they would not admit him into their Cabinet; but he was good enough for Ireland. Well, how stood the history of this affair? On the 18th of April it appeared, the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland was for the renewal of the Coercion Act, Court-martial clauses and all; on the 20th of June, he was of a different opinion, and the Court-martial clauses were to be given up; and now, on the 7th of July, the House was called upon, upon the authority of the same Lord-lieutenant, to retain those very clauses. But he (Mr. O'Connell) proclaimed it openly and unhesitatingly that those Court-martial clauses had not been given up out of respect to the Marquess Wellesley, but in a spirit of miserable truckling of one part of the Administration to another. When the hon. and learned member for Edinburgh joined the Government, it was that these clauses were sacrificed. The hon. and learned Member had undergone the ordeal of a re-election, and he might have been entertained there with a Dudley fête. The hon. and learned Member knew that amongst the constituency of Edinburgh there were a hundred Irish voters. [The Attorney General: Yes, but they all voted against me.] And they did right. They did right to vote against the prosecutor of the True Sun: and one who was an officer of the Crown under the former Coercion Bill. Many Scotchmen also would have been found to vote against him, had they 1248 known him as the agent of the Polonius Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. But he would not even yet despair. He had a fair reliance on the good sense and power of the instructed part of the people of Ireland. They would wait their time, which sooner or later must come; and he was happy meantime to tell them that the county of Wexford was not altogether lost to the good cause. The repealer, though not personally very popular, had gained the day. In conclusion, he would only once more appeal to the honesty and good sense of the Government and of the House. Would they grant the inquiry he asked for? Would they give him an opportunity of falsifying the interested witnesses who had so long misled them? By so doing they might give some satisfaction to his abused and suffering countrymen, but do what they could they could not crush the spirit of liberty which reigned amongst them.
§ Mr. Abercromby
said, that when the proper time came he should hold himself prepared to give the reasons why he thought the re-enactment of the Coercion Act necessary for Ireland. At the present moment he would only offer a few words in remark upon one or two observations of the hon. and learned member for Dublin. That hon. and learned Member had spoken of the Court-martial clauses of the Bill as if it had been proposed by Government to withdraw those clauses in order to conciliate the opinions of the hon. and learned member for Kircud-bright and himself on the occasion of their accepting office. Now such was not the case. Those clauses were never submitted either to his hon. and learned friend or himself, and could not, therefore, have met with their dissent. He certainly understood that those clauses had been previously withdrawn by the Government. It appeared that his right hon. friend the Secretary for Ireland had been for some time carrying on a correspondence with the Lord-lieutenant upon the provisions of the Bill, in the course of which some variance of opinion had manifested itself; but he believed, that in the end they had come to a full understanding and agreement upon the subject. As to the delay in bringing this measure forward, which had been alluded to as a ground for complaint, for his own part he could not but think that his Majesty's Ministers had acted a wise, a 1249 just, and humane part towards the people of Ireland in not pressing this measure forward as long as any the slightest ground existed to hope that the re-enactment of a measure so at variance with all the constitutional principles of the State might be unnecessary. They had now, however, produced papers before the House containing evidence of the necessity for such an enactment. It was for the House to consider whether that evidence was sufficient to justify such a measure of coercion; if they did not think it sufficient let them act upon that opinion, and refuse to re-enact the Bill. But at any rate do not let them appoint a Committee which could be productive of no good result in itself, and would effectually prevent the possibility of legislating at all upon the subject during the present Session.
§ Lord John Russell
observed, that if anybody thought this Bill ought to he renewed without the clauses against political agitation, he considered that the particular tone of the hon. and learned Gentleman that night should undeceive him. When the hon. and learned Member was so vehement against Government for renewing this Act, he begged the House to consider what it was that hon. and learned Gentleman had agreed to in the Act of last year. He was willing to permit the peasantry of Ireland to be compelled, in certain districts, to remain inside their houses at night, and to answer when their names were called over by a policeman. This it would not be denied, was a great infringement of the liberties of the subject. And he really considered it as no further infringement of those liberties to say, that in a country where people were not allowed to be out at night, no person should have the opportunity or the power of exciting them to acts of outrage. He, for one, was not disposed to propose a Bill which should strike merely at the lower classes, and not affect those who excited them and influenced them to acts of outrage. With respect to the law itself there would be plenty of time to discuss it. As regarded the Committee, called for by the hon. and learned Gentleman, it must be for one of two purposes—to ascertain whether the accounts of predial outrage were well founded—a fact which the hon. and learned Gentleman never doubted before, or else to inquire if such a thing as po- 1250 litical agitation had been and was again to be apprehended. Neither could that be necessary; the facts were before the world; it was notorious that agitation had gone on in Dublin and elsewhere, and who could doubt that it would be renewed? With respect to the observation made by the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the return of the repeal candidate for Wexford, he begged to say, that he was glad the Repealer had succeeded, because it took away from the hon. and learned Gentleman his only ground of complaint against his right hon. friend.
begged to say a few words in explanation of what had fallen from the noble Lord who had just sat down. The noble Lord had stated, that he (Mr. O'Connell) had last year admitted the necessity and propriety of keeping the peasantry within their homes after nightfall, and placing them under the surveillance of the police. Now he had admitted no such thing. He certainly did give his consent to a clause in the Coercion Bill by which in any district which had been duly proclaimed as a disturbed one, no man was allowed to be out of his house without some lawful business; but that was a very different thing to shutting everybody up in his house, as had been alleged by the noble Lord.
§ Lord Stormont
wished to put a straightforward question to his Majesty's Ministers, to which he expected to receive an equally candid and straightforward answer. He wished to inquire what were the sentiments of the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland on the 20th of June? The House had already been informed what were his Excellency's opinions on the 18th of April, and on the 7th of July. At those two dates his Excellency's sentiments were the same, but they appeared to differ from those he entertained at the intermediate date of the 20th of June. He wished, therefore, to ask, for the sake of the reputation of his Majesty's Government—ay, he repeated it, for the sake of the reputation of the Government, for, though that might be a subject of great ridicule to those Members opposite, it was not so to the country at large, who too well knew that when the government of any state lost its reputation it lost its moral strength, and that state must fall. He thought it right that the country should be informed what it was, that had occurred to induce lord Wellesley to change his 1251 sentiments, first between the 18th of April and the 20th of June, and again between the 20th of June and the present date, the 7th of July. He thought, that in justice to all parties all letters and papers tending to throw any light upon this curious question should be produced.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, that if the present question was one of a personal nature between the right hon. Secretary for Ireland and the hon. and learned member for Dublin, and he was almost afraid that it was not much else, he should have very little difficulty in making up his mind how to act. He had never yet acted in concert with the hon. and learned member for Dublin, but on the present occasion he must say, that he felt very much inclined to vote with him. It was very true, as had been urged by hon. Members opposite, that it would be a considerable inconvenience to appoint a Committee of Inquiry at so late a period of the Session. But it was not the fault of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, nor was it the fault of the House, that the question had not been brought on earlier. He must say, that from a full consideration of the importance of the question on which they were called to legislate, he should most sincerely vote for the adoption of the Amendment of the hon. and learned member for Dublin, unless his Majesty's Ministers could immediately show some reason why the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland should have changed his opinion in the way he appeared to have done about the 20th of June, or consent to lay before the House such papers as could best illustrate this singular inconsistency. It had been pretended that these papers were of a private nature; but he could not understand what was meant by private correspondence between public functionaries, and upon momentous public questions; at least he could not see why such private correspondence should be brought forward at all to influence the Legislature in their decision upon such questions.
§ Lord Althorp
in reply to the question of the noble Lord (Lord Stormont) on the opposite side of the House as to what were the opinions of the Marquess Wellesley on the 20th of June, in respect to the Court-martial clauses of the present Act, and what had occurred to induce his Excellency to change those opinions, said, that the fact was, that a discussion 1252 had been entered into upon the subject of those clauses between the right hon. Secretary for Ireland and his Excellency, in the course of which his Excellency might have made use of expressions such as would justify the right hon. Secretary, with his own previously conceived notions, in conceiving his Excellency favourable to the milder course of omitting the clauses in question. For his own part he was not prepared to say, that on a perusal of the correspondence of the date referred to he should have formed a similar notion of the sentiments of Lord Wellesley. In fact he did not think that any person reading that correspondence could interpret it in that way. The hon. member for Worcester said, that there ought to be no private correspondence between public functionaries and upon public matters. But it would be perfectly impossible to carry on any Government without such confidential communication, and it would be quite impossible, consistent with their public duty, to lay such correspondence on the Table of the House of Commons any time it might be called for.
§ Sir Robert Peel
felt himself impressed with the necessity of making a few observations if only out of justice to Lord Wellesley, who was mixed up in their disputes. If correspondence on public matters could always be suppressed by simply endorsing them with the word "private," here would be a very simple way of at once avoiding all inquiry. He trusted in the present case that in justice to the Lord-lieutenant of Ireland his Majesty's Ministers would see the necessity for the production of the correspondence which had been demanded. He had just sent for the printed paper relative to Kilmainham hospital, and he there found copies of letters which bore every internal evidence of having originally been of a private nature. There was one for instance, ending "In haste, ever, my dear Ellice, very truly yours." Now that was very like a friendly private letter. There was another equally free, beginning "Dear Ellice," yet all these letters had been produced without the slightest hesitation.
§ Mr. Ellice
begged to explain, that all the letters in question had been published with consent of the parties.
§ Sir Robert Peel
exclaimed, "That will quite satisfy me!" He had read what the noble Marquess had written on the 18th of April. He had heard what the 1253 noble Marquess's opinion was upon the 7th of July; but he was told that on the 20th of June the noble Marquess held a different opinion. They had Lord Wellesley's opinion in favour of the renewal of the Act. They asked for his opinion against it! Would they refer to the Marquess Wellesley, and ask him if he had any objection to the production of that part of his correspondence with the right hon. Secretary which might bear upon this point?
§ Mr. Ellice
had only made the statement respecting the published letters as a justification of himself.
§ Sir George Murray
observed, that the matter became more and more obscure, the more that was said about it by the Government, and the more reason there was for inquiry. One thing he could say, and that with perfect truth, and it was—that if this Bill were for Scotland, as it was for Ireland, nothing would ever induce him to vote for it without inquiry. Certain of the Members of the Government, indeed, had taken credit to themselves because they so long delayed the Motion upon the Coercion Bill, and because no announcement of its renewal had been given, except in the private communication by the right hon. Gentleman to the hon. and learned Gentleman to the effect, that the anxious desire of Government was, if possible, to spare the people of Ireland the infliction of this measure; but see the predicament into which the Administration had brought the House and the people of Ireland by not giving any intimation of their intention to renew the Bill until it was too late for preliminary inquiry as to the fact whether there was a necessity for the renewal or not. Under all the circumstances of the case, he felt bound to follow the example of his right hon. friend, the member for Tamworth; because he saw perfectly that if the Committee of Inquiry were granted, it would be impossible that that measure, or any such measure, could be renewed before the end of the Session. But in so doing, he reserved to himself the right of condemning any portion of the measure which he did not think necessary.
§ Mr. O'Dwyer
remarked, that the right hon. Baronet, it appeared, was willing to let that be done by Ireland which he would resist to the utmost, if it were directed against Scotland. The right hon. Baronet was content to sacrifice Ireland 1254 rather than put hon. Members to the inconvenience of remaining for some time longer in town, though he would be willing to stay for months or years if the interests or the liberties of Scotland were at stake! The Government wanted to put down the question of Repeal, but that was not to be done by unconstitutional legislation.
§ Mr. Gillon
agreed with the premises of the right hon. Baronet; but he differed from him as to the conclusion at which he had arrived, and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would reconsider it. He trusted that the right hon. Baronet would be induced to regard our fellow-subjects of Ireland in the same light that he did his own countrymen.
§ Sir George Murray
explained, that he had not objected to the Committee of Inquiry on account of the inconvenience to hon. Members remaining in town longer than they otherwise might, but there was no time for the inquiry the hon. and learned Gentleman called for before the Coercion Act would expire.
§ Mr. Ronayne
said, it was quite clear from what had fallen from certain Ministers that night, that the Coercion Bill was required by the Government, not so much for the purpose of suppressing agrarian disturbances, as putting down political agitation.
§ Mr. A. Lefroy
said, that he felt impelled by a conscientious sense of duty to support the re-enactment of the Coercion Bill; but he entirely concurred in the censures which had been passed upon his Majesty's Government.
said, that Ministers proposed the re-enactment of this odious measure by way of compensating the Conservatives for the protection which they afforded them.
§ Mr. William Roche
said, that the renewal of the Bill was a wanton and uncalled-for act of oppression.
§ The House divided on the Amendment—Ayes 73; Noes 156; Majority 83. The original Motion was agreed to.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Dashwood, G. H.|
|Attwood, T.||Duncombe, T.|
|Bewes, T.||Fancourt, Major|
|Blackburne, J.||Grote, G.|
|Brotherton, J.||Guest, J. J.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Gully, J.|
|Buller, C.||Hall, B.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Hardy, J.|
|Hawkins, J. H.||Chapman, M. L.|
|Hurst, R. H.||Dobbin, L.|
|James, W.||Evans, G.|
|Jervis, J.||Fitzsimon, C.|
|Langton, Col. G.||Grattan, H.|
|Palmer, General||Grattan, J.|
|Parrott, J.||Jacob, E.|
|Potter, R.||Lynch, H.|
|Richards, J.||Martin, T. B.|
|Rippon, C.||Mullins, F. W.|
|Robinson, G. R.||Nagle, Sir R.|
|Romilly, J.||O'Connell, Maurice|
|Scholefield, J.||O'Connell, Morgan|
|Staveley, T. K.||O'Connell, J.|
|Thompson, Ald.||O'Connor, F.|
|Turner, W.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Walter, J.||O'Reilly, W.|
|Warburton, H.||Ronayne, D.|
|Wason, R.||Ruthven, E.|
|Whalley, Sir S.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Williams, Colonel||Roche, D.|
|Ewing, J.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Gillon, W. D.||Sullivan, R.|
|Wallace, R.||Vigors, N. A.|
|IRELAND.||Walker, C. A.|
|Barry, G. S.||Wallace, T.|
|Bellew, R. M.|
|Browne, D.||O'Connell, D.|
|Callaghan, D.||Home, J.|